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Posted at 8:02 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Jim Riggleman on the 2011 Nationals

By Adam Kilgore

At the winter meetings, all dim lobbies and hotel suites filled with baseball executives and laptops and snack foods, the actual playing of baseball seems pretty far away. As for that, Manager Jim Riggleman addressed some points about the upcoming season. Here are the highlights:

*First overall pick Bryce Harper will begin spring training in major league camp, a starting point that owes to his spot o the Nationals' 40-man roster. "He'll get a lot of attention, I'm sure, just as Stephen Strasburg did last year," Riggleman said. "But he'll be in big league camp and get some at-bats. If the at-bats look like they are starting to get too infrequent, we will get him down to minor league camp where he's seeing pitching every day."

*Riggleman said Nyjer Morgan will be the clear-cut center fielder heading in spring training, meaning he will not have to compete with Roger Bernadina. Riggleman also acknowledged the obvious, that Morgan must improve his .319 on-base percentage for the Nationals' offense to thrive. "We want Nyjer to score and to score, he's got to be on base," Riggleman said. "We know he can do it. He's shown he can do it. We just hope that he's getting on base at a little higher clip, and that's going to mean a little improvement against left-handed pitching, basically."

*The Nationals could add a back-end-of-the-bullpen reliever this offseason, but for now their three candidates to close are Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard. Riggleman was asked if he'd like to settle on one of them, or if he'd go with a committee in the ninth inning.

"In a perfect world, you have a guy who does it, but our guy who we kind of look to do that down the road is Storen and that being the case, we want to allow him to gravitate towards that,"
If it happens sooner than later, it's great, but if he gets some help doing it in the meantime, again, I'll point to a couple of the best closers, really, didn't pitch the ninth inning until they were about 25, 26 years old; Mariano Rivera and a few others. They kind of found their way in the seventh and eighth inning for a couple of years and when [John] Wetteland moved on, Mariano took it over and others have done the same thing.

"I think that that has proven to be a real good way for a guy to acclimate himself to that ninth inning is to get a little history behind him in the seventh and eighth, and Drew has got a little of that. He's pitched some in the ninth. But again, we are not going to deny him if he's clearly that option there, but we are not going to force it to happen, either."

By Adam Kilgore  | December 6, 2010; 8:02 PM ET
 
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Next: Take a deep breath on Cliff Lee to the Nationals

Comments

This all changes based on a plan Rizzo, Clark, DiPuglia, Davey Johnson, Boone, Minniti et al have out together. They have appear to have far more to do with shaping this roster than does Riggleman. If he's in on what their planning he isn't saying so. Perhaps its all a ploy on his part otherwise he sometimes looks as relevant to the decision making as Bill Ladson.

Posted by: periculum | December 6, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

No shock here. All those clamoring for the Nats to get rid of Morgan may be right, but the Nats are enamored with his speed/defense and will give him another chance.

No biggie making Bernadina the 4th OF for now, anyway. Would love to have him and Morse off the bench most days, thats some nice pop...can pinch for Pudge with those guys and give Ramos more action as well...

Need to get a Lefty bat other than Morgan/Bernadina in there though probably..

Posted by: CJArlington | December 6, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Haven't seen anyone on the Nats address this yet - but don't we have the world's best right field prospect on the fast track to the bigs? Where does Werth play in April 2013 (and NOT center field).

Posted by: mherd1 | December 6, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes, Riggleman is completely irrelevant considering Rizzo said that Riggleman's relationship with Werth was one of the reasons Werth even considered signing with the Nats.

Of course 126 mil helped too.

Posted by: PrincessJazzy | December 6, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

More proof that somewhere one of Morgan's relatives is holding a gun to the head of one of Riggleman's kids.

A .319 OBP should not be counted on for anything next season except continued frustration and headaches.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 6, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

@princessjazzy,

"Of course 126 mil helped too."

That's the bottom line. I guess it helped that Rizzo scouted him in high school too? A lot of that stuff is fluff to make Riggleman look like he is a part of the equation. Because there were times when he looked lost last year when moves seemed to be made behind the scenes without his knowledge. The whole Guzman, Desmond, Kennedy deal kind of highlights this.

Of course in your skewed world Adam Dunn would never be a DH just for security and a lot of money? He would come back to the Nats to play first base?

Yeah right Jazzy and you're tinker A bell.

Posted by: periculum | December 6, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer getting on base is only half the problem. He often gets picked off or is thrown out stealing. In their 6 seasons in DC, the Nats have never had an effective leadoff hitter.

Posted by: bupbups | December 6, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

the nats FO attachment to nyjer is bordering on the bizarre. last season showed what nyjer really is all about. also, the kid needs to be tested for a coke habit. it really fits his behavior.

Posted by: DCguy7 | December 7, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Peric was that post in English? Wow, you need a BS translator to make any sense of it.

WTF does your comment about Adam Dunn mean? That is the main characteristic of any of your posts, you always act as if you are omniscent and all-knowing about everything. Like most of your other comments that you spam across any board you can post on while drunk, you put words into peoples' mouths while making wild pronouncements that you pull right out of your rectum.

I was talking about Werth and Riggleman's relationship from when they were with the Dodgers. How that relates to Dunn and what he decided to do with his life is known only to you and what you decide to pull from your behind while typing with one hand.

God Forbid anyone should call you on the BS you constantly spew about the inner workings of the Nationals that you know nothing about but it's never stopped you from shooting your mouth off anyway.

Take your best shot, Pal, I'm waiting for some nasty anti-female post you'll dredge up because you don't like to be questioned about your rantings.

Posted by: PrincessJazzy | December 7, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Jeez, does this really mean we have to put up with the Nyjer Morgan show again next year? Was really hoping that we could avoid that this year. IMHO, Bernadina is Morgan's equal in most every category and is younger with more pop, and of course he has nowhere near Nyjer's excess baggage on the field. Strange how management seems to be reluctant to move forward in this instance despite all of Morgan's shortcomings, readily apparent to seemingly everyone but them.

Posted by: LeeM9308 | December 7, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

I'd give Tony Plush about as much slack as the Nats gave Thrillige.

Posted by: nats24 | December 7, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Let me start by saying I like Nyjer... but he seemed to be pressing all season long to make big plays happen. all we need him to do is get on base and play solid d. both aspects of his game took a dramatic step back last year imo.

I think Bernie is the better defensive player right now but I'm not sure if he has the makings of a leadoff buy. I think Bernie is better suited for the 6 or 7 spot.

Werth will move to lf when Harper comes up btw.

Posted by: DMoney28 | December 7, 2010 3:22 AM | Report abuse

I like Morgan and I hope he comes back really strong but a lot of this posturing is probably based on:

1) he could (emphasize could) be a very good defensive CF with speed and right now is their best bet in the leadoff position
2) they could be trying to inflate any trade value he may have after a poor season last year with some incidents thrown in

Posted by: derwink | December 7, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but we cannot have another year of Morgan clowning in center and on the bases (when he does get on). Bench him or get rid of him and give Bernadina a shot in center. Morgan must have pictures of someone.

Posted by: upperdeck4 | December 7, 2010 6:59 AM | Report abuse

derwink, Nyjer could never fall into the "very good" category on defensive unless he has his throwing arm surgically replaced. He has an exceptionally weak throwing arm for a CF, and there's no amount of coaching that will change that.
And the rest of the NL knows that as well as I do, they run on him regularly.

Riggleman
"We just hope that he's getting on base at a little higher clip" a LITTLE higher?
"and that's going to mean a little improvement against left-handed pitching, basically." a LITTLE improvement?

Peric - Agree that Riggleman has no significant input in shaping the roster.
PrincessJazzy - Me likey.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 7, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

I have to believe Morgan is going to be on a very short leash. You look at his stats and Bernadina's, and there's no reason to prefer him to Roger. He doesn't get on base more than Bernadina and he has no power. Bernadina's a better base stealer, believe it or not. In 2010, Nyjer stole 34 bases while getting caught 17 times, for a net of 17 stolen bases. Bernadina stole 16 bases, but got caught only TWICE. That is a sensational base stealing percentage.

And Bernadina is only 26 years old - a lot more up side to his career. Morgan is 30. He's not going to suddenly blossom into a power hitter, and does anyone seriously think he's going to improve his baserunning, when his CS percentage last year was actually pretty typical for his career?

I hate to run Morgan down like this, but really, he's the team's fifth most valuable outfielder with the bat in his hands, and as far as his fielding goes, he misses the cutoff too often, has a poor arm, and makes mental mistakes. How good does Bernadina have to be to replace him in center?

As I said, I hate to run him down like this, especially since I have an extra bobblehead (still in the box) and am willing to trade. Anyone...?

Posted by: gilbertbp | December 7, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm preaching to the choir here, but when Nyjer does get on base, he's almost a sure out. And he can't bunt, either. Finally, he has no baseball instincts. Nyjer was one of Rizzo's first picks, and I think that says it all.

Being fast and quirky doesn't cut it for me.

Overall, no "team" seems to be emerging for 2011, just a bunch of players, and many of them with big question marks over their heads.

Posted by: JohnRDC | December 7, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I hear ya Sunderland but wasn't it two years ago after the trade from Pittsburgh that people were raving here about his defence?

Maybe I'm remembering it wrong too though. Because of where I lived, I wasn't able to get any games the past two years so I can't say that I can vouch for his defence with my own two eyes.

Personally, I'd go with Bernadina but that's just me.

I'm relying on the comments from this board - now whether that is good or bad is another thing. :)

Posted by: derwink | December 7, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Throwing this out there. This is Jon Heyman's latest tweet: "#nats remaining ultra aggressive going after starting pitching, i hear. this team isnt messing around."

Posted by: mojo6 | December 7, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

derwink, Morgan covers alot of ground and gets to balls some centerfielders can't; when you watch him though he seems to be out of position alot and has a pitiful arm. To me it seemed like everything went wrong for him last year and he just mentally lost it; if that's the case, if his head is on straight I can see him contributing but he doesn't seem like the type of player who would be a good bench player, sitting quietly and contributing when he can. If he isn't starting then get him out of here for a bag of peanuts.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 7, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Sorry JohnRDC, but "Nyjer can't bunt" just is not so. I bet he has the most bunt bawe hits on the team. Now his hitting and baserunning skills seemed to have left him last year. Hopefully, they come back. His fielding was decent (I fear his little league blowup last season has clouded you all's judgement on that). Nyjer is first going into spring because RB has had trouble at the plate. But it is no sure thing that Nyjer comes out of ST with the job. He still has to have a "good" spring.

Overall, this team will different from last year's team as was last year's from the year before. 2010 NATS were 9 games better thean 2009 version. Whether this team is better remains to be seen. That's why they play the games.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | December 7, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I got that impression from the boards, SCNatsFan. Covers lots of ground, weak arm, can't hit the right cutoff man, etc. A starter or potential trouble on the bench. I think a lot of this talk of him starting is to keep his value as high as possible so he can be part of a package.

Thanks for the scouting report on his defence. :) I like those kind of conversations.

Posted by: derwink | December 7, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

And now Buster Olney: "There is a growing speculation among rival agents and executives that the Washington Nationals are going to throw a HUGE number at Cliff Lee"

Posted by: mojo6 | December 7, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I think that when you read about Managers backing one of their players who have the kind of performance problems that Morgan has had, it is often an indication that their perception is that the player will perform better with support. Some players get the 2x4 updide the head, others get the love. Some get love publically while getting whacked in private.

I would not read too much into Riggleman and Rizzo standing by their man. I'm sure they are aware that there is an opportunity for improvement.

Morgan performed very well in 2009 and players do bounce back. Don't count him out just yet, but don't assume the team is doing nothing about it either.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 7, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Nats24: Speaking of Thrilledge, he's available since the Buccos non-tendered him. Anybody out there want to bring him back??? No? Didn't think so.

Posted by: Section314 | December 7, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Heyman spells out what the "utra aggressiveness" is all about in this tweet: "Source: #nats "very much'' in on cliff lee. Rumor is they may throw out 7 year offer." The drums are definitely beating in Orlando. What the hell is going on? Source sounds like Lee's agent. Is this Teixeira redux?

Posted by: mojo6 | December 7, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Morgan has a lot of tools, but not a lot of baseball acumen.

When he came over in '09, he was lauded as a good defensive outfielder. Because he was. In 2010, he played much more poorly. As others said, he was out of position, took some bad route, and has a weak arm. Worst of all, he threw to the wrong base way more than an MLB player should.

Is he a good bunter, kind of. Maybe he has the most bunt base hits, but I'd also bet (outside of sac attempts), he has the most bunt outs. He doesn't seem to be able to choose the right time to lay down that bunt.

If I was the Nats, he'd be looking at the 3B coach every pitch, take the thinking away from him. Tell him when to bunt, when to take, and when to steal. Crash Davis says, "don't think; it can only hurt the ball club."

Posted by: comish4lif | December 7, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Hot stove around Cliff Lee seems to be heating up with the Nationals right out front. Very exciting...even if that excitement is tempered by years past. Would love to see Rizzo land this whale...

imho...sure we overpaid for Werth...but it was an effective wake-up call to the remaining free-agents that the Nationals will not go quietly into the night! We will fight! Wooooohoooooo!!!

Posted by: Naugatuck-Nats | December 7, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Jon Heyman says that the Nats have offered a 7th year, and the Yanks balked at six. Slip him the tongue Pants!!

Posted by: Brue | December 7, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I would almost rather have Pavano and Webb then Lee. If you think Werth's deal will look bad in 5 years think how Lee's will look.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 7, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind having toi eat some of Werth's deal in year 6 or 7, but to have to eat Werth and Lee in years 6-7 might be a little tough to bear.

Posted by: comish4lif | December 7, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind having toi eat some of Werth's deal in year 6 or 7, but to have to eat Werth and Lee in years 6-7 might be a little tough to bear.

Posted by: comish4lif | December 7, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"I wouldn't mind having toi eat some of Werth's deal in year 6 or 7, but to have to eat Werth and Lee in years 6-7 might be a little tough to bear.

Posted by: comish4lif | December 7, 2010 11:18 AM"

You won't have to eat it, the Lerners will. And they're worth more than Steinbrenner. They can handle it.

Posted by: FeelWood | December 7, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

SCNatsFan/comish4lif...

Sure...it might be tough in 5-6-7 years, but a lot can happen between now and then. As a long suffering Expos/Nats fan I would gladly take a rough contract or two in 5-7 years for 3-4 of competetiveness.

Posted by: Naugatuck-Nats | December 7, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Re: eating contracts in maybe 5 years--whether they rebuild now, or then there is still losing built in. Go for the ring now.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 7, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

When Nyjer arrived in 2009 and was hailed for his defense, remember what we had been looking at in the OF for the preceding few months - Dunn was still out there for crying out loud.

I'd say that Nyjer regressed to his typical performance in 2010 after teasing Nats fans by playing over his head for the weeks between the trade and IR in 2009. I'm expecting 2011 to look a lot more like last season than '09.

Posted by: zimbar | December 7, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Okay here are your options:

7 years from now the Nats are eating 40 mill from Lee/Werth and we have some hardware in the case, its worth it.

7 years from now, we still have yet to see this team finish over .500.

Posted by: alex35332 | December 7, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

The Nats are already in trouble. Riggleman insists on starting Nyger Morgan. Talk about a bone-head. His mental mistakes are good for about 20 losses next year. "quick-hook" Riggleman has got to go, and he can take his moron centerfielder with him.

Posted by: lp_lodestar | December 7, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

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